Back in November of 2006, I posted an essay by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a prolific author and self-described late bloomer. (Click here to read.) Now that Carolyn has a new book out, the time seemed ripe to do an interview with her. I think you'll be inspired by what she has to say.
Prill: Talk about being a late bloomer.
Carolyn: That term is one that gets bandied around a lot in our family. Originally I thought of myself as an early bloomer. I was the youngest person to ever be hired as a reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune. But then I gave up on my writing career, as many women in my generation were wont to do. You know, children. Husband. So when I got back to writing, it was pretty late.
Prill: You mentioned your family…
Carolyn: Yes, my mother, who will be 90 this February, calls my daughter a late bloomer. She's getting a Ph.D. in her early forties. Heck, I consider people in their early 40s, mmmm, babies.
Prill: So, was it slow going when you did get back to the writing you love?
Carolyn: Actually not. You know, when we start a second or third career, we have everything we've done before--all that experience--to put to work in favor of the new effort. I had been a publicist and worked for Good Housekeeping magazine right after my newspaper stint. That helped. My husband and I had owned our own business. That helped. And, there is just something about wisdom. It seems that it naturally collects in wrinkles. I think my fiction is gentler than it would have been when I was young. I am a more confident promoter now than I would have been when I was young, and we all know how important that is to a writing career.
Prill: Does that have something to do with why you started your How To Do It Frugally Series of books for writers?
Carolyn: Yes, I wanted to share all the potholes I fell into when my first books were published. I learned how book promotion differs from other promotion. I even had to learn that promotion is something authors have to do if they don't want their books to die. Every single promotion idea in The Frugal Book Promoter: How to do What Your Publisher Won't is something I tried myself and learned from. No one else need go through what I did. This book will let them pick and choose what's best for them and give them all the little tricks to make whatever they choose successful.
Prill: And now you are releasing The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success…
Carolyn:Yes, and you know, it turns out that The Frugal Editor is a lot about marketing, too. Writers have to market themselves every day with proposals, cover letters, query letters. A poorly edited query can mean an unsold book! Editing isn't all about grammar and structure and dialogue tags. Many of us make lots of errors that annoy people like agents and publishers and contest judges without even realizing it. I mean, they aren't errors that your English teacher would have rapped your knuckles over. They're perfectly good, grammatical statements or punctuation or any number of things that tip gatekeepers off that we're amateurs.
Prill: Back to that part about starting over—as a late bloomer.
Carolyn: The only real drawback of this late bloomer thing is that I have a sense that I must follow my heart in choosing what I write. That's not all bad, of course, but it means I am not making choices based on what is best for my career but, really, on what I want to do. It sounds spoiled but that's another thing that happened to me as I aged.
Prill: I presume you’re referring to your bout with cancer?
Carolyn: They are related—the cancer and the aging. Life is so short. When you start feeling at a gut level that life will end instead of just knowing intellectually that it will, you might use different guidelines to make your choices. I sure did. And it's not all bad. Poetry doesn't sell in large numbers but oh! The joy! And there's so much of that same emotion in helping other writers. So, that's what I do.
Note: Carolyn's website is www.HowToDoItFrugally.com. She blogs at www.SharingwithWriters.blogspot.com, www.authorscoalition.blogspot.com (a blog on turning a ho-hum book fair into a sizzling success), and www.TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also edits a newsletter in association with Authors' Coalition, an organization she founded (www.authorscoalitionandredenginepress.com). Subscribe by sending an e-mail with "subscribe" in the subject line to HoJoNews@aol.com.